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AUTO REVIEW: Cadillac SRX preys upon its competitors

Cadillac's 2010 SRX rides a wave of new technology and old-time Cadillac style and comfort to the top of the luxury crossover segment. From its V-shaped grille to subtle but menacing vestigial tailfins, the five-passenger SRX is the latest strong...

Cadillac's 2010 SRX rides a wave of new technology and old-time Cadillac style and comfort to the top of the luxury crossover segment.

From its V-shaped grille to subtle but menacing vestigial tailfins, the five-passenger SRX is the latest strong showing from Cadillac's design team.

A roomy and luxurious interior complements the sporty and modern exterior, while Cadillac showcases its new drivetrain technology with a pair of powerful V6s.

The six-speed automatic transmission could use some tuning for highway acceleration, but the SRX's confident handling and responsive steering make it one of the most enjoyable luxury crossovers to drive.

Add a competitive price and a taste for regular gasoline that makes the SRX less expensive to operate than its competitors, and the SRX establishes itself as a clear leader among five-passenger luxury crossovers.

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Modest, modern tailfins notwithstanding, the new 2010 Cadillac SRX luxury crossover jumps into the water as a predator, not prey.

Cadillac honed every nut, bolt and piece of trim on the all-new SRX to take a bite out of the Lexus RX 350, which is by far the best-selling luxury crossover.

Dinner is served.

More attractive, refined and sophisticated than the first-generation SRX, the all-new 2010 model beats the RX and other five-passenger competitors with its looks, features and value.

Prices for the 2010 SRX start at $33,300 for a front-wheel drive model powered by a 265-horsepower 3.0-liter direct-injection V6.

The least-expensive all-wheel drive model adds plenty of other features and starts at $39,405. Cadillac offers four SRX trim levels: Base, which only comes in front drive; Luxury Collection and Performance Collection, which come with either FWD or AWD; and Premium Collection, only available in AWD.

All SRXs have a six-speed automatic transmission. Cadillac will add a performance model powered by a 300-horsepower turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 later this year. Cadillac has not announced pricing for the turbo SRX.

I tested a well-equipped 3.0-liter SRX Performance Collection with a $46,540 sticker price.

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The SRX competes with five-passenger luxury crossovers like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 BMW X3, Lexus RX 350 and Mercedes-Benz GLK 350.

The SRX's value stacks up very well. The vehicle I drove cost $5,000 to $6,000 less than comparable models of the RX 350 and Q5 I've tested recently.

Combine that value with excellent handling, advanced features and a comfortable, attractive interior and the SRX comes out a clear winner.

At 190.3 inches, the SRX is the longest of the vehicles, and its roomy passenger compartment provides plenty of space for front and rear occupants. Cargo volume is a useful 29.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 61 cubic feet with those seats folded down. The Lexus has the most cargo space among the competitors I've named at 40 and 80 cubic feet, respectively.

The Cadillac fuel economy rating of 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway trails the RX and Q5 slightly, but GM's predilection for engines that run on regular rather than premium gasoline makes the Cadillac less expensive to operate than those two premium-fuelled models, according to the EPA's calculations.

Beyond those practical questions, the SRX's crisp styling, responsive handling, features and interior look and feel rise to the top of its class.

The wedgy shape adds a sporty flair to a segment that's becoming increasingly bland. Cadillac's V-shaped grille sets the tone, and a close examination of the taillights reveals that the lenses are raised slightly above the rear fenders, a subtle homage to the tailfins that distinguished great Cadillacs for decades.

Large C-pillars reduce the driver's field of vision, however. Big sideview mirrors help, but you could park a 1976 Eldorado in the SRX's blind spots.

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The attractive interior has clear, elegant gauges, rich optional Sapele wood trim and soft leather. The materials look and feel good throughout.

Seat comfort is excellent, with plenty of leg, head and shoulder room in the front and rear rows. The interior is quiet at high speeds, with very little wind or road noise.

The SRX's handling is excellent. The crossover is fluid and responsive in quick maneuvers but smooth and comfortable over bumpy surfaces.

The crisp steering provides good feedback at all speeds. Big disc brakes stop the SRX with authority.

Cadillac owners nervous that a 3.0-liter V6 can't provide the power they expect need not worry. The SRX has good launch acceleration, but the six-speed transmission appears to have been tuned for fuel economy more than highway acceleration.

There's a lag before it downshifts when you press the accelerator for passing on the highway. Shift response is quicker in the gearbox's manual mode.

Cadillac missed the boat with the first-generation SRX. Despite good handling and performance, the car's odd looks and poor interior materials made it a fish out of water. The nifty 2010 SRX fixes those shortcomings, adds new technology and a touch of tailfin flair to make a meal out of the competition.

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AT A GLANCE

Front- or all-wheel drive five-seat luxury crossover SUV

Engine: 3.0-liter, 265-horsepower direct-injection variable valve-timing V6 or 2.8-liter, 300-horsepower turbocharged variable valve-timing V6

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Price range: $33,330 to $47,540 (excluding destination charges)

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